The Best City in the U.S.A. for Food and Wine
New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta and Los Angeles may be some of the finalists but the winner for best food and wine is clearly Las Vegas. There are 170 Master Sommeliers in the world (the result of wine knowledge and blind tastings are part of the rigorous exam), 74 of them live in the USA and 17 of them work in Las Vegas. There are 75 Wine Spectator Grand Award winning restaurants world-wide and six are in Las Vegas; 33 of the 788 Best of Award of Excellence restaurants are also situated there.
Janelle Brown of the New York Times in 2004 wrote: “When the Rat Pack moved out, Las Vegas lost its reputation for chic. Between the ubiquitous frozen margaritas, the roving bachelorette parties, the theme-park décor (and don’t forget the $3.99 buffets), the town scared away the nation’s arbiters of taste. The emerging Las Vegas is now sexy rather than tacky, knows its contemporary design and is definitely priced for the high-roller crowd.”
With that as a basis, follow along with us as we slice, dice and slurp our way through the best food and wine of Fun City.
Las Vegas strip at night
MGM Resorts International operates 10 Las Vegas properties. CityCenter which includes Aria and Vdara, MGM Grand, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, Luxor, New York-New York, Excalibur and Circus Circus.
“Home to an impressive 14 sommeliers (the most in the US) MGM Grand is dedicated to quality wine service and helping guests discover that next transcendent bottle of wine,” said MGM Grand Director of Wine Brian Weitzman. “We take pride in providing the best in service and experiences. Aside from our outstanding wine program, we also have 11 certified sake sommeliers--the most at any property in the country--to further enhance our offerings.” Approximately 52,000 bottles of wine are housed within the walls of MGM Grand, representing 4,710 wine labels and 156 selections available by the glass.
Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon - Chef Robuchon visits his restaurants at least 6 times a year. He was named Chef of the Century and his Joël Robuchon restaurant has won a Forbes 5 Star restaurant (one of 17 in the U.S.) as well as an AAA Five-Diamond Award. The five-room space recalls the glamour and elegance of 1930's Paris. Almost 2,000 selections.
L’Atelier presents his cuisine in an accessible, informal style. Wine Director Harley Carbery is great at food and wine pairings. 650 wines; tres cher and elegant. A bank loan or open credit line is advised.
NOBHILL TAVERN by Michael Mina- 800 wines, 70 champagnes. Try to get one of the semi-private cabanas by the entrance. The restaurant is meant to recreate the atmosphere and cuisine of San Francisco.
Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House has 1,375 wines and a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. I doubt Emeril has much time to man the kitchen here.
Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak boasts 2,700 wines, and 200 scotches and other whiskies. They have applied for a WS Grand Award.
Fiamma Trattotia & Bar has almost 850 wines.
Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak boasts 2,700 wines, and 200 scotches and other whiskies. They have applied for a WS Grand Award.
Hakkasan headed up by Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon, whose signature dishes reflect his modern approach to traditional Cantonese cuisine. The Ling Ling Club and Lounge, a 10,000-square-foot nightclub is downstairs.
Bellagio has established the record for the most Master Sommeliers at a single property anywhere in the world. Master Sommelier certification takes years of preparation, commitment and mastery. The resort has three Master Sommeliers including Jason Smith, the property’s director of wine.
Celebrity restaurateur Sirio Maccioni sent his son Mario out here when the Bellagio first opened.
Le Cirque & Osteria del Circo more than 900 wines, and the elegance the Maccioni’s bring to everything they touch shows. Both restaurants have a Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence award.
Picasso has 1,625 wines on their list assembled by Master Sommelier Robert Smith. Another Wine Spectator Grand Award winner and a AAA 5 Diamond winner. French cuisine with a hint of Spanish influence, and numerous works of art by the great master Picasso.
Prime has 850 wines with Jason Quinn as their lead sommelier.
Jasmine has almost 800 wines with strength in California and Burgundy.
MICHAEL MINA is a seafood restaurant with over 800 wines on the list.
Sensi has a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence list of more than 800 wines to match its Asian cuisine.
Aureole's wine tower
Aureole- a Charlie Palmer restaurant. William Sherer, Master Sommelier & wine director. No other place in Las Vegas comes close as a wine lover's Mecca. This Wine Spectator Grand Award winner with over 5,000 selections has a temperature-controlled wine tower with Mission Impossible "wine angels" who use a high-tech suspension system to gracefully retrieve each order. Their rare wine collection includes a half-dozen examples of the prestigious 1900 vintage in Bordeaux (the 1900 Petrus is $42,000).
Fleur by Chef Hubert Keller - The modernized menu offers an array of small plates inspired by cuisine from Chef Keller's travels around the globe. There are more than 500 wines on the list.
Rick Moonen’s rm Seafood- at Mandalay Place at Mandalay Bay. Chef Rick Moon is in the kitchen five or six nights a week. An international list of 600 selections from sustainable producers.
STRIPSTEAK- A Michael Mina Restaurant with 600 wines including a rare collection of cult classic California wines and a separate Single Malt Scotch list of 100.
Mix is an Alain Ducasse restaurant located on the 64th floor of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, a separate property next to Mandalay Bay. Christopher Tassan oversees the more than 1,100 selections. A must-see is the 15,000-piece “champagne bubble” chandelier.
Andre’s French Restaurant was voted #1 restaurant in Las Vegas by Zagat’s Guide. A Wine Spectator Best of Award winner with 1,500 wines. Chef/owner Andre Rochat patterned this restaurant, opened in 1997, after his longtime first venture opened in 1980 on the Fremont Street area. It is reminiscent of Versailles, with its ornate Renaissance décor and gilded opulence.
Andre's Cigar & Cognac Lounge located upstairs is the best place to enjoy a fine cigar and rare Cognac’s. The chef has assembled the most extensive collection of rare vintage Cognac’s this side of the Atlantic.
Aria Resort and Casino:
Part of CityCenter, which was developed by the MGM Resorts International Group.
Jean Georges Steakhouse- For the carnivore from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
barMASA- From the Michelin 3-star chef Masayoshi Takayama who opened Masa & Bar Masa in the Time-Warner Center, NYC. 100 bottled varieties of Sake and 20 by the glass, plus a 250 selection wine list.
AMERICAN FISH- Michael Mina's restaurant, this time it's seafood. The wine list is organized by taste, rather than region. Try the cocktail list with emphasis on cocktails created before 1940.
Julian Serrano- Tapas and new interpretive Spanish dishes from the multiple award-winning chef. Over 500 wines with emphasis on Spanish varietals as well as Spanish brandies.
Sirio Ristorante- Traditional Italian cuisine from Sirio Maccioni and son Mario, of Le Cirque. Extensive wine list with one of Las Vegas' largest selections of Italian wines.
N9NE Steak House- Pronounced as Nine. Christian Margesson- wine director- has 850 wines. Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. Also renowned for its champagne and caviar bar.
Alizé on the 56th floor of the Palms Hotel with 1,900 wines and another Best of Award of Excellence is operated by Andre Rochat (Andre's).
Valentino- Wine Spectator Grand Award winner- Sister restaurant to Piero Selvaggio's celebrated Valentino in Los Angeles. Modern and traditional Italian cuisine with an award-winning wine list of 2,400 wines. Voted best Italian restaurant in Las Vegas.
Delmonico Steakhouse- Steak and New Orleans-style cuisine from Chef Emeril Lagasse. Master Sommelier Kevin Vogt is in charge of the collection of almost 2,000 wines. Another Wine Spectator Grand Award winner.
Wolfgang Puck's Postrio- For casual elegance in the St. Mark's Square portion of the mall.
B & B Ristorante- Heralded Italian cuisine featuring Mario Batali's signature dishes and Joe Bastianich's signature wine list of 750 wines with emphasis on Piedmont and Tuscany.
Pinot Brasserie- Almost 700 wines on the list.
Bouchon- French bistro classics and delectable desserts from Chef Thomas Keller of Per Se and French Laundry. 500 wines on the list.
Wynn Las Vegas:
There are 17 sommelier in house with 100,000 bottles of wine.
The all-Italian wine list at Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare is 23 pages including 23 dessert wines. Danielle Price is Executive Director of Wine and has over 800 wines at SW Steakhouse.
Harrah’s/Caesars group includes 9 hotels- Caesars Palace, Harrah Las Vegas, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, Paris Las Vegas, Bally's, Planet Hollywood, Imperial Palace, Bill’s Gambling Hall & Saloon and the Flamingo.
Rio Las Vegas:
The Wine Cellar offering over 1,400 wines at retail, 100 wines by the glass and a 50,000 bottle wine inventory. The wine bar has munchies and cheese platters to enhance your wine enjoyment. Custom wine and food dinners are also served here. The oldest bottle in stock is an 1800 Thomas Jefferson Madeira. The 1924 6-Liter Mouton Rothschild sells for $200,000 and there are 170 vintages of Château d’YQuem dating back to 1855 which can be yours for a mere $1.5 million.
Paris Las Vegas:
Eiffel Tower Restaurant boasts a wine list that contains over 1,000 wines including 47 different half-bottle selections. Almost the entire list is French and Californian with 16 vintages of Château Latour & 17 of Château Mouton Rothschild. The 1982 Château Petrus is the most expensive at $12,000 & a DRC Le Montrachet 2003 is $4,600. Located 11 stories up, it has a panoramic view of the strip.
Tim Wilson is the Director of Beverage for Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in the Forum Shop area that features California-style cuisine. They have more than 600 wine selections.
Guy Savoy has a 2,200 bottle wine list including: 14 Krug Champagnes, 23 Le Montrachet, 42 DRC’s, 14 vintages of Château Mouton & Lafite Rothschild, 13 Château Margaux’s, 15 Château Petrus, 29 Guigal Grand Cru Côte-Rôtie’s and 17 vintages of Château d’YQuem. His son Franck is Director of Food and Beverage, overseeing all the restaurants at Caesars Palace.
Rao's original restaurant is at 114th Street off Pleasant Avenue, and has been duplicated with two rooms of 10 tables each to replicate the New York City restaurant. There is also a “feast area”, bar and outdoor seating, including a Bocce ball court. At Rao's, as in all the restaurants I visited, there is a connection to ownership. No absentee or TV chefs here.
Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro, from Francois Payard, the artisanal French chocolatier and pastry maker based in Manhattan.
Serendipity 3- Funky twist on an old-fashioned soda shoppe with a fun menu featuring their legendary desserts, straight from Manhattan.
Mesa Grill- Innovative Southwestern fare from celebrity Chef Bobby Flay.
Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill- "Authentic" English pub style restaurant & bar, featuring steak, chops, shephard's pie, sausages, fish & chips, and spotted dog. 100+ beers.
Nobu- Unique Japanese delicacies from celebrated Chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
The Palazzo Las Vegas:
CUT by Wolfgang Puck- Heralded by Wine Spectator and the James Beard Foundation.
Carnevino- Celebrity chef Mario Batali's take on steak. Wine selection (600) chosen by winemaker Joe Bastianich.
Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro- 30 farmhouse and artisinal cheeses. 60 wines by the glass. 500 by the bottle. Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence.
Comme Ça Mark Mendoza is the Wine Director for acclaimed Los Angeles chef David Myers Group. The almost 400 wines are exclusively American and French.
Master Sommelier Paolo Barberi oversees a selection of over 500 regional Italian wines by the bottle and 20 selections by the glass at Chef Scott Conant’s D.O.C.G, a wine bar named after the highest level of Italian wine origin.
Scarpetta- Modern Italian cuisine, also from acclaimed NY Chef Scott Conant.
Master Sommelier Chris Janz has a 300 bottle mainly Greek wine list at Estiatorio Milos. Just like their New York restaurant, the fish is flown in fresh daily.
STK- Modern steak joint with a stylish bar, from The One Group in New York's Meatpacking District.
Jaleo- Acclaimed chef José Andrés presents tapas and paellas, with an adequate list of Spanish wines by the glass.
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill- From NYC Chef's chefs and restaurateurs Eric and Bruce Bromberg.
é by José Andrés- 23 courses of Spanish cuisine for 8 privileged guests nightly, from José Andrés of Jaleo restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel:
Part of CityCenter. Three Michelin star chef Pierre Gagnaire has opened Twist, his first U.S. restaurant. There are almost 600 wines on the list with a large Bordeaux selection.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino:
Nobu - Signature dishes and fine Japanese cuisine by prolific owner and chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Off the strip
Located across the street from UNLV is Freakin’ Frog with their Craft Beer Bar– the largest beer bar in America featuring almost 1200 selections. Above the bar is the Whisky Attic, a private club with over 600 whiskies including Rye, Irish, Canadian, Bourbon, Scotch and International products. It boasts the largest collection in a whisky-only bar in the country.
Joe's Las Vegas from the famous original Miami Beach location, with their unrivaled stone crabs, hashed browns and key lime pie. Over 360 different wines, and 30 by the glass. 3500 Las Vegas Blvd.
Poppy Den - Southeast Asia fusion gastropub. Inside Tivoli Village at 440 South Rampart Boulevard.
Honey Salt - Jazzed up farm-to-table comfort food. 1031 South Rampart Blvd.
Before you go, visit:
Las Vegas Tourist Board – (877) VISIT-LV
Comments or questions welcome, please e-mail to: Ron@TheFiftyBest.com